Top Langkawi Hotels
The islands of LangkawiJust off the Malay Peninsula's west coast near the Thai border, Langkawi has some of Asia's best beaches and virgin rainforests thriving with wildlife. The tropical island is a beautiful tranquil retreat from the real world and ideal for those who want to unwind in peace. This is an island of legends and myths. Geographical features of the main island and the 100 odd surrounding islets are interpreted poetically. Stories can be a little laboured, and the modern tourist attractions somewhat manufactured. There's little doubt that Langkawi's real offering is its stunning natural bea uty. Langkawi has not been indiscriminately developed and defaced like other formerly beautiful islands, so if you want bright lights and action then look elsewhere - this is a place for low-key beach life. More...
This island has some stunning beaches (Pantai). The two main public beaches are Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, both just south of the airport in the west. They are broad, long and for the most part clean and cleared regularly. They are open to the public and are not very busy, even on public holidays. As with all local beaches, the sea is clean and the sand slopes gently down, great for kids of all ages. Beach life on Langkawi is pretty laid back.there is not one disco on the sands.
North of the airport is Pantai Kok, but being remote has very few visitors except from the resorts overlooking the excellent beach. Perhaps the best beach on the island is Pantai Datai on the northwest tip. A secluded and protected bay, it offers the best sand and cleanest waters and is buffered against most weather.
Another superb beach is the Pantai Tanjung Rhu, again huge, clean with pristine waters. It is open to all but the owners of the only resort on the beach, the Tanjung Rhu, may restrict usage sometime soon.
One of the more famous stretches lies on the north coast. Pantai Pasir Hitam or Black Sands Beach was apparently turned black by an angry Mermaid frustrated by a fisherman who stole her magic ring. The colour actually comes from mineral deposits and has become more white than black in recent years. Swimming is mediocre and there are no facilities.
Many attractions revolve around the island's natural beauty and myths. There is some form of folklore behind each major geographical feature of the 100 or so islands. More recent additions have been added to try to give Langkawi more scope, but frankly the island's man-made attractions are contrived and really can be missed.
The Craft and Cultural Complex to the north is one of the better ones, and perhaps the only one that is worth the effort. Its cultural section provides a succinct version of all the local legends and is a good start point. Craft and heritage sections are well done with batik making and weaving demonstrations. Don't be put off by the myriad of handicraft stalls when entering the complex.
The best known legend is the tragic tale of Mahsuri, a beautiful young woman wrongly accused of adultery and sentenced to death. In the final throes of death she cursed the island to seven generations of barren prosperity. Her shrine is revered by local inhabitants but is little to look at. Nearby is a traditional Kampung (village) with a well. The water is reputed to have healing powers.
Air Hangat Village is not a village but a touristy development desperately dwarfing a tiny hot spring. Legend has it that the spring was the result of a family feud over a son's roving eye which lead to a punch up at a wedding feast. A free-for-all broke out with smashed banquet items being hurled miles away, giving rise to the island's main features. Kuah is Malay for 'gravy', Belanga Perak means 'broken pot' so it's clear what a mess it all was. Splashed hot water became the springs at Air Hangat (hot water). Visitors can have an hour's soak in a private room, but the modern jacuzzi bathtubs take the edge off the experience.
Close by is the Galleria Perdana, opened in 1995. It has a mix of gifts presented to Malay leader Mahathir over the years. It includes everything from cars to clothes, paintings to pewter, doctorates to tea sets, bicycles to musical instruments. Interesting, if only to see what a man who has everything is given. Just south is Langkawi crystal, mainly a showroom of the local glass factory with live limited demonstrations. However, as recession bites the kilns are rarely fired and the main factory on Rabak Island is closed.
Langkawi's only town, the uninspiring Kuah lies to the southwest. It has a smattering of shops, banks, ATMs and moneychangers. Eagle Square is marked with an imposing 12m high rusty brown Eagle from which Langkawi gains its name (Brown Eagle). Flanking the square is Lagenda Park, which is a 20-hectare garden with fantasy sculptures portraying the local heritage.
Towards the interior is the rather glamorously named Malaysia Book Village. Six Kampung-style wooden houses sit in tranquil surroundings, a relaxing setting for a good read. The book collection itself is weak, with two houses empty and the book selection very limited.
Seven Wells Waterfall
Executed maiden Mahsuri's curse was fulfilled when the Siamese invaded in the early 1800s. Part of the local defence strategy was to hide the rice supplies but the rice was torched in battle. At the developed Field of Burnt Rice traces can apparently be seen but you have to look very hard. If hunting for traces of burnt rice is your thing then by all means give it a visit.
On Pantai Kok is an interesting Thai style replica Summer Place built for the 1999 movie 'Anna and the King'. The set houses colourful props and costumes used in the film. TVs continuously loop the movie which is degrading through overuse. The set is pretty impressive and not a bad diversion.
On the north side of the island is the very modern Ibrahim Hussein Museum housing one of Malaysia's best-known artist's modern and creative works. You may meet the man himself as he spends much time there.
Langkawi revels in its natural beauty and the scenery beats the forgettable touristy efforts the island has sprouted in recent years. Much of the north side is virgin rainforest, centuries old. Treks are arranged by some of the hotels near the forest. There are over 400 species of butterfly alone and over 200 species of birds. Add to this macaque and languir monkeys, fruit bats, and a wide range of snakes and lizards. Walks are absorbing, even if some have been spoilt by poorly managed mass tourism. Seven Wells Waterfall for example is littered.
Pantai Cenang beach
If you are looking for nightlife of discos and bars forget it - the place closes down after 10.00pm. But during the day there is plenty to do. One option is go-carting at the very professionally-run Morac International Circuit. Water sports provide most of the entertainment and are generally courtesy of the hotels. Sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, fishing, kayaking, and snorkelling - all are available. Parasailing is also found on Cenang and Tengan beaches. Diving is best at Pulau Payar Marine Park 45 minutes south of Langkawi.
Many hotels have opened spas with surprisingly good massages, many with locally made oils. At the top end, the Datai's Mandara Spa is to die for - but at a whopping price. Other hotels are much cheaper including the Kampung Tok Senik Resort, also very popular. Most hotels offer or arrange some sort of service.
Cenang beach features Underwater World, a marine aquarium with over 5000 fresh and salt-water fish. Sharks and stingrays drift above your head in a perspex tunnel. It's a hit with families but try to avoid the weekend and public holiday rush.
The crocodile farm and snake sanctuary are fairly interesting and educational, and loved by kids. Feeding time at the crocodile farm is quite a sight, but there is always a feeling that these animals are best left in the wild.
2002 saw the launch of Canopy Adventures, an air trek through the rainforest canopy near the Book Village. Activities for the agile include a 120m slide and 30m vertical abseil. The same company does day and night jungle treks. In late 2002 a cable car will open giving sweeping views of the noble mountain Gunung Mat Cincang.
The island boasts three world-class golf courses that are all relatively underused. The Datai Bay Golf Club is particularly impressive although not especially eco-friendly having been chain sawed into the rainforest.
Food can vary. Restaurants and chefs come and go, so it is best to check with others what's hot. Most local restaurants are around Pantai Cenang and some of the best food is served in the hotels - although some serve some truly bad food.
Dining in Langkawi
Some restaurants are on the tourist circuit, so the food is aimed at large groups, taking the edge off the quality. One such restaurant, the Barn Thai, is situated 500m into a mangrove swamp and is accessed via a wooden walkway. The restaurant is a fascinating old wooden building, the food being little to write home about but certainly not bad.
Another popular choice with the tour groups is Siti Fatimah, serving-Kampung style Malay food by the roadside. For local food, Nelayan Restaurant in Bukit Malut, run by a local fisherman dishing up catch of the day, is worth a try.
The Datai has some excellent restaurants with top dishes but with very high prices to match. The Beach Garden Resort on Pantai Cenang has an excellent reputation for consistently good food served by its Swiss chef who is often out chatting to the guests. Next door is the Casa Del Mar, another of the better choices.
One of the best restaurants not linked to a hotel is the Bon Ton, also on Pantai Cenang. It serves great meals in a fabulous setting, divine deserts and a great wine list. Not in the same league but certainly acceptable is Sunshine Restaurant at the other end of the beach. Others worth trying are The Lighthouse and Sheela's.
Chinese and Indian hawker food is best in Kuah. Some of the better places are not necessarily the best looking. The best yardstick for quality is to see where the locals eat.
Langkawi is a duty free centre and as such the shopping ought to be good, but shops are limited to a few malls in Kuah. Prices are generally poor compared to Kuala Lumpur.
Langkawi Fair is probably the largest mall, and there is another less inspiring option at the boat jetty. Near the Berjaya Langkawi is the Oriental Village, which is a collection of boutique-style shops selling high-end brands. The place is pretty deserted but well-run, again the prices don't tempt.
Kuah has a good-sized supermarket and around the island are other smaller ones. Kuah has the only international ATM but connections can be unreliable. Moneychangers are plentiful and pretty competitive as are the hotels.
Dotted around the island are various markets but these are generally for local consumption. The odd boutique handcraft and gallery pops up near the public beaches, some with interesting items. Many of the popular tourist attractions have souvenir stalls with overpriced batiks and handicrafts, sometimes rather tacky.
Getting from A to B
Getting around the relatively small island is simple. Taxis are cheap, plentiful and efficient. They don't use meters but are generally honest, but agree on a price beforehand. Charges are for distance travelled but the cars or vans can be rented by the hour. A typical 15-minute trip is RM 5-10 hourly rates are around RM 20. A nominal call out charge may be applied. Drivers are generally charming and a mine of useful information.
Car and motorbike hire is easy and cheap and can be arranged by most hotels. Check your insurance thoroughly though. While the roads in Langkawi, as throughout Malaysia are well-maintained, the drivers are not all careful and considerate. Driving is on the left. For the more energetic, bicycles can be hired for a few Ringgit an hour.
Kuah jetty links the island to the mainland at Kuala Peris and Kuala Kedah with regular ferries taking roughly an hour. Penang also has a daily 2 and a half hour crossing. Tours also leave the jetty for Langkawi's outer islands.
Langkawi Airport is conveniently linked to major Malay cities and Singapore. During peak season there are international flights to a few Asian cities such as Hong Kong.
A host of tours are available through hotels or local agents, many exploring the natural habitat of the coastline. Local agents offer half and full day tours, often good value, but with a real herd-like feeling and unwelcome souvenir shopping pit stops. Organising your own tours by taxi seems more relaxing and flexible. Eco-tours include boat trips of the mangrove swamps, visits to the bat caves and fish farms. Eagle feeding sees fresh chicken being tossed in the water for the majestic birds to swoop down and snatch, quite an impressive display.
Island hopping is also available to some of Langkawi's 100 or so islets. The three most popular are Pulau Singa with its animal sanctuary, Pulau Beras Basah, home to some of the best flora and fauna, and Pulua Dayang Bunting with its freshwater 'Lake of the Pregnant Lady'.
Further afield is the marine sanctuary at Pulau Payar, 45 minutes away by catamaran. The sanctuary offers reasonable diving.
Events The Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) is probably the island's biggest event. The air show runs alternate years around November / December a time when hotels get booked solid.
The island also hosts sporting events like Ironman Triathlon, Le Tour Langkawi and the Raja Mudu Sailing Regatta. In addition there are small festivals over the year. Generally though, the only time the island does get buzzing is during school and public holidays when Malays soak it up on the beach.
Cyber Langkawi Internet connections are available at most of the hotels. The more expensive properties generally offer a free service whereas others charge. Rates are higher than the various Internet shops around Pantai Cenang and Kuah. Speeds are okay but vary depending on the time of day and connections can be erratic. If you have your own computer most hotels offer ports in the rooms but it is often cheaper to use the Internet service provided.
Tourist Information Offices The main tourist office is in Kuah, along Chogm Park 500 yards away from Eagle Square. It contains good information and assistance.
The airport also supplies free maps, brochures and guides and most taxis carry a selection. There is more information than you need. "Langkawi, The Complete Guide" is RM45 in most places and is widely available.
Featured Langkawi Hotels
Langkawi Travellers Tales
Langkawi is an excellent ''all round'' destination - it has some beautiful beaches and resort hotels and you could easily spend a week just sat on the beach - but if you are looking for a slightly more active holiday there is plenty to do and explore. We hired a car for a few days - would definitely recommend this as the roads are good and quiet and it allows you to see more of the island''s beautiful scenery. We also did a day trip to the mangroves which again was excellent - we started off in Kuah town and were taken by speed boat around the island and then sailed down through the mangrove swamps. Along the way, we saw dolphins, sea eagles, monitor lizards and monkeys - lunch at the Barn Thai restaurant was included (this is worth visiting for its location alone - it is situated in the middle of the mangrove swamp and accessed via a wooden walkway!).
Recommended to take the Cable Car ride in Langkawi. Beautiful Scenery for those avid pohotographers.
My trip has been a quiet one with the love of my life. We stayed in the resort, the resort bistro, and on the beach most of the time thinking it''d be a hassle to move out to town since we didn''t have a car. But to our surprise, there were actually rows of souvenirs and sundries shops, restaurants, and bistros right infront of the resort! We managed to get a few souvenir and clothing items, had chinese for dinner in the restaurant opposite of the resort, and a drink of beers in a bistro along the street on the second day itself. You can also find an internet cafe right down the street to your right coming out from the resort. Moving around the island is not a problem either if you can drive or ride a bike as the car/bike rental shop is right next to the resort. Now, the only regret we had was that the trip was just too darn short!
Langkawi and Pentai Cenang are very relaxing and quite laid back. There are sites to see but if you just want to laze and chill out that''s fine too. A trip on the cable car is hair-raising but worth the visit. A visit to the seven wells requires a bit of walking and quite strenuous in the heat. We visited many restuarants, The Lighthouse and Bon-Ton slightly more expensive but both in beautiful settings especially the Bon-Ton! Narelle at the Bon-Ton invited us as day visitors to spend some time at the resort and use its facilities. Wonderful frozen cocktails and the best dessert (chocolate tort with tiramsu ) I have ever tasted!!! Please visit and say hello from Bill and Ed (the 2 Irish guys) to Uma and Theo at "Chompa Chompa" pub and restaurant. She is a wonderful, delightfully eccentric Tamil woman who will immediately make you feel welcome. She is also a great cook! Theo, also very welcoming serves a mean drink as many of our late nights can testify! Food and drink very reasonable. Also visit Debbie''s Irish Pub next to Chompa Chompa. A bit of a misnomer as there is nothing to suggest an Irish pub and only qualifies as Debbie''s husband is Irish. She too will make you feel most welcome.
If you stay in Tanjung Sanctuary you need a car or a motorcycle. Taxis are expensive!
The location is perfection if you are looking to relax or whether you are wanting to go out and do things. There are tonnes of little adventures to be had. The go-kart racing is fantastic. Waterworld interesting and they are still renovating and improving it - go so you are at the shark tank around 3pm as that''s when you see a diver hop in and feed them hand to mouth. There is a great pakistani/indian restaurant up the road just beside the sun plaza shopping complex and the red tomato is a welcome taste of home. The owner is really nice and knows a lot about the area so you can ask her a lot of questions if need be. I took the Coral Island tour and went snorkeling. I CAN''T express how amazing and fun this was. The people were extremely nice and helpful and your lunch is included in the price. GREAT thing to do even if you are just wanting to laze around on the beach.
Pelangi Beach hotel is located on Pantai Cenang. This beach isn''t the prettiest on the island. There was a fair bit of rubbish washed up on the sand and in parts there was a strange rotting smell. Pelangi Beach Hotel is however, up the far end of the beach and therefore probably one of the better hotels to stay at on this stretch. There are a few shops and other restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. A really great spot to eat is the Red Tomato Beach Cafe. Excellent food and service. Also very clean, and great sunset views during dinner.
We took a mangrove tour which was a great day out on the water with many varied activities learning about the mangroves, and ecology; bat hunting (with camera not guns!), getting fingers nibbled by fish and feeding eagles. The guide was extremely knowledgeable - Biden -contacts details with Bon Ton. Well worth the day out.
Recommend doing the snorkelling trip to Palau Payer - was the most awesome trip. But be warned to apply a good waterproof sunblock as everyone''s backs got quite burnt from spending all day floating in the water.
Langkawi is a lovely island, fairly quiet on the nightlife side but if you like your food it is amazing! The seafood is fantastic, especially at the Bon Ton and for traditional and very cheap Malay, the hawker cafe ''BZ Sempoi'' is definately worth a visit (centre of the island). The cable car is a good morning out with great views and a sunset cruise is a worthwhile experience. The best bit is just jumping into a car and exploring - we discovered the new Four Seasons resort - an amazing place! Generally, a great place to relax and unwind.